TEMPE, Ariz. — As much as he’s tried to ignore the talk and focus on himself, Anthony Rendon has heard the cynics.
After having two surgeries, essentially knocking him out of two of the first three years of his seven-year, $245-million deal, the Angels third baseman knows how he’s perceived around the game.
“I don’t have social media, but a lot of my friends do, all my family does,” Rendon said on Monday morning. “They’ll text me. They’re saying this. They’re saying that. So it definitely gets to me. I understand and I hear it and at times yeah, it pisses you off. I try not to let it go further than that. You just try to use it to continue to go on for the greater purpose.”
Although Rendon had a .915 OPS and played 52 of 60 games in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Rendon has played just 105 of the Angels’ 324 games in the last two seasons, producing a .709 OPS and 11 homers.
Those seasons have caused many — even among Angels fans — to write off Rendon.
“He hears the noise,” manager Phil Nevin said. “He certainly does. And he’s made reference to that to me. I know that he’s not out to prove people wrong. He doesn’t need to prove anything. He just wants to win. He’s been in this position before. And I know he’s pumped to get this thing started. He looks great. Watching him in the cage, watching him move around, he looks free. Really excited to see where that goes.”
Rendon and Mike Trout have both been injured often in the last two seasons, so the Angels have played just 51 games with Rendon, Trout and Shohei Ohtani in the lineup together. They are 27-24 in those games. The trio played together 33 times during the Angels’ 27-17 start last season.
“It wasn’t the only reason our record was what it was before (Rendon) got hurt, but it certainly had a lot to do with it,” Nevin said. “We just haven’t seen those three play together. To have them healthy at this moment right now is pretty cool for me. I know that.”
General manager Perry Minasian has predicted multiple times that Rendon will win the Comeback Player of the Year award, an award he won in 2016.
Rendon had played just half a season in 2015, and then from 2016-19, he averaged 146 games a year, with a .912 OPS. He hit 103 homers in those four years.
Of course, Rendon is now 32. And now he’s coming off two straight injury-marred seasons. He had hip surgery in 2021 and wrist surgery in 2022.
Rendon was still not 100 percent from the hip surgery when he got to spring training in 2022. He did make it back from the wrist surgery for a brief cameo — and to serve a five-game suspension — at the end of the season.
Rendon said he rushed back so he could get some peace of mind heading into the winter.
“I think it was good to show myself going into the offseason that I could play, even if I wasn’t the greatest player in those last few games,” Rendon said. “Just to have that in the back of your mind, knowing that I had another three months to continue to get stronger and to try to get back to normal.”
Rendon is not limited in any way as workouts begin this spring. He was on the field taking ground balls and hitting a few days before Monday’s first official full squad workout of the spring.
“I haven’t really played a lot of baseball the last handful of years, so to be out there is awkward,” Rendon said. “It’s weird. But’s that what spring training is for. Get out there every day. Continue to put the work in and try to get ready for that season.”
Asked his goals for this season, Rendon said simply “not to have another surgery.”
Asked how many games he wants to play, he conceded that he’s “not trying to play 162 games.” He applauded the Angels’ acquisition of Gio Urshela, who can spell him occasionally at third.
“Load management is going to be a part of it,” Rendon said. “Just the way my body feels and aging. I’ve been playing this game for a long time.”
Rendon is also looking forward to what comes after he’s done. He has four seasons left on his Angels contract.
“I know right now and it looks like we’re playing for the next four years of baseball, but I’m trying to hang out with my kids for the rest of their lives,” Rendon said. “You guys aren’t going to see that. When I’m trying to get out of bed when I’m 50 and I can’t because I’m trying to impress you guys from having surgeries, now I’ve got to deal with it with my kids and then my kids get the short end of the stick. I want to hang out with them. Not hang out with y’all. No offense.”